The Korean Intellectual Property Office and the Israel Patent Office have each granted Merck’s patent applications, this week. The applications that have been granted are for the company’s CRISPR technology used in a genomic-integration method for eukaryotic cells.
“These decisions mark the fifth and sixth patent allowances for our unique CRISPR technology to find new treatments for some of the toughest medical conditions faced today, including cancer, hereditary and rare diseases,” said Udit Batra, member of the Merck Executive Board and CEO, Life Science. “These foundational integration patents recognize our significant contributions to the genome-editing field and reinforce our commitment to evolving CRISPR technology globally.”
Merck also has patent filings for its insertion CRISPR method in the U.S., Brazil, China, India and Japan. In December 2017, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore awarded Merck a patent for this technology. Earlier, in June 2017, Merck was awarded a similar patent by the Australian patent office. The company has also received related patent awards by the European and Canadian patent offices.
Merck is licensing these patents for applications including basic science research, agricultural biotech and therapeutic use.
Merck recognizes the potential benefits of conducting properly defined research with genome editing because of the breakthrough therapeutic potential. Therefore, Merck supports research with genome editing under careful consideration of ethical and legal standards. Merck has established a Bioethics Advisory Panel to provide guidance for research in which its businesses are involved, including research on or using genome editing.
These forthcoming, fundamental patents in South Korea and Israel cover chromosomal integration, or cutting of the chromosomal sequence of eukaryotic cells (such as mammalian and plant cells) and insertion of an external or donor DNA sequence into those cells using CRISPR. Scientists can replace a disease-associated mutation with a beneficial or functional sequence — a method important for creating disease models and gene therapy. Additionally, the method can be used to insert transgenes that label endogenous proteins for visual tracking within cells.
CRISPR genome-editing technology, which allows the precise modification of chromosomes in living cells, is advancing treatment options for a variety of medical conditions. CRISPR applications are far-ranging — from identifying genes associated with cancer and rare diseases to reversing mutations that cause blindness.
With a 12-year history in the genome-editing field, Merck was the first company to offer custom biomolecules for genome editing globally (TargeTron™ RNA-guided group II introns and CompoZr™ zinc finger nucleases), driving adoption of these techniques by researchers all over the world. Merck was also the first company to manufacture arrayed CRISPR libraries covering the entire human genome, accelerating cures for diseases by allowing scientists to explore more questions about root causes.